Category Archives: Research in Higher Education

Cite seeing: A brief guide for academics to increase their citation count

Apologies to any non-academics reading my blog today but this article will be of more interest to academic researchers than anyone else as it examines the strategies that I have used to get (what some people have claimed as) an “excessive” number of citations to my published work. All academics are aware that the use of bibliometric data is becoming ever more important in academia. Along with impact factors of academic journals, one of the most important bibliometric indicators is citation counts. These are increasingly being used in a number of contexts including internal assessment (e.g., going for a job promotion) and external assessments (e.g., use in the Research Excellence Framework [REF] as a proxy measure of quality and impact).

In June 2016 I reached close to 30,000 citations on Google Scholar and this is good evidence that what I do day-to-day works. I have an h-index of 91 (i.e., at least 91 of my papers have been cited 91 times) and an i10-index of 377 (i.e., a least 377 of my papers have been cited 10 times).

Citation counts take years to accumulate but you can help boost your citations in a number of different ways. Here are my tips and strategies that I personally use and that I know work. It probably goes without saying that the more you write and publish, the greater the number of citations. However, here are my top ten tips and based on a number of review papers on the topic (see ‘Further reading’ below):

  • Choose your paper’s keywords carefully: In an age of search engines and academic database searching, keywords in your publications are critical. Key words and phrases in the paper’s title and abstract are also useful for search purposes.
  • Use the same name on all your papers and use ORCID: I wish someone had told me at the start of my career that name initials were important. I had no idea that there were so many academics called ‘Mark Griffiths’. Adding my middle initial (‘D’) has helped a lot. You can also use an ORCID or ResearcherID and link it to your publications.
  • Make your papers as easily accessible as possible: Personally, I make good use of many different websites to upload papers and articles to (ResearchGate and being the two most useful to me personally). Your own university institutional repositories can also be useful in this respect. All self-archiving is useful. It is also especially important to keep research pages up-to-date if you want your most recent papers to be read and cited.
  • Disseminate and promote your research wherever you can: I find that many British academics do not like to publicise their work but ever since I was a PhD student I have promoted my work in as many different places as possible including conferences, seminars, workshops and the mass media. More recently I have used social media excessively (such as tweeting links to papers I’ve just published). I also write media releases for work that I think will have mass appeal and work with my university Press Office to ensure dissemination is as wide as possible. I also actively promote my work in other ways including personal dissemination (e.g., my blogs) as well as sending copies of papers to key people in my field in addition to interested stakeholder groups (policymakers, gaming industry, treatment providers, etc.). I have a high profile web presence via my many websites.
  • Cite your previously published papers: Self-citation is often viewed quite negatively by some academics but it is absolutely fine to cite your own work where relevant on a new manuscript. Citing my own work has never hurt my academic career.
  • Publish in journals that you know others in your field read: Although many academics aim to get in the highest impact factor journal that they can, this doesn’t always lead to the highest number of citations. For instance, when I submit a gambling paper I often submit to the Journal of Gambling Studies (Impact factor=2.75). This is because gambling is a very interdisciplinary field and many of my colleagues (who work in disparate disciplines – law, criminology, social policy, economics, sociology, etc.) don’t read psychology journals. Some of my highest cited papers have been in specialist journals.
  • Try to publish in Open Access journals: Research has consistently shown that Open Access papers get higher citation rates than non-Open Access papers.
  • Write review papers: Although I publish lots of empirical papers I learned very early on in my academic career that review papers are more likely to be cited. I often try to write the first review papers in particular areas as everyone then has to cite them! Some types of outputs (especially those that don’t have an abstract) are usually poorly cited (e.g., editorials, letters to editors).
  • Submit to special issues of journals: Submitting a paper to a special issue of a journal increases the likelihood that others in your field will read it (as it will have more visibility). Papers won’t be cited if they are not read in the first place!
  • Publish collaboratively and where possible with international teams. Again, research has consistently shown that working with others collaboratively (i.e., team-authored papers) and in an international context has been shown to significantly increase citation counts.

Finally, here are a few more nuggets of information that you should know when thinking about how to improve your citation counts.

  • There is a correlation between number of citations and the impact factor of the journal but if you work in an interdisciplinary field like me, more specialist journals may lead to higher citation counts.
  • The size of the paper and reference list correlates with citation counts (although this may be connected with review papers as they are generally longer and get more cited than non-review papers.
  • Publish with ‘big names’ in the field. Publishing with the pioneers in your field will lead to more citations.
  • Get you work on Wikipedia References cited by Wikipedia pages get cited more. In fact, write Wikipedia pages for topics in your areas.
  • Somewhat bizarrely (but true) papers that ask a question in the title have lower citation rates. Titles that have colons in the title have higher citation rates.

Note: A version of this article was first published in the PsyPAG Quarterly (see below)

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addictions, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Ball, P. (2011). Are scientific reputations boosted artificially? Nature, May 6. Located at: (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Bornmann, L., & Daniel, H. D. (2008). What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior. Journal of Documentation, 64(1), 45-80.

Corbyn, Z. (2010). An easy way to boost a paper’s citations. Nature, August 13. Located at: (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Ebrahim. N. A. (2012). Publication marketing tools – Enhancing research visibility and improving citations. University of Malaya. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Available at:

Ebrahim, N., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A., Habibi, F., Gholizadeh, H., Motahar, S. M., & Ordi, A. (2013). Effective strategies for increasing citation frequency. International Education Studies, 6(11), 93-99.

Ebrahim, N.A., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A., Habibi, F., Gholizadeh, H., & Motahar, S. M. (2014). Visibility and citation impact. International Education Studies, 7(4), 120-125.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Self-citation: A practical guide. Null Hypothesis: The Journal of Unlikely Science (‘Best of’ issue), 15-16.

Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24.

Jamali, H. R., & Nikzad, M. (2011). Article title type and its relation with the number of downloads and citations. Scientometrics, 88(2), 653-661.

Marashi, S.-A., Amin, H.-N., Alishah, K., Hadi, M., Karimi, A., & Hosseinian, S. (2013). Impact of Wikipedia on citation trends. EXCLI Journal, 12, 15-19.

MacCallum, C. J., & Parthasarathy, H. (2006). Open Access increases citation rate. PLoS Biology, 4(5), e176,

Swan, A. (2010) The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date. Located at: (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Vanclay, J. K. (2013). Factors affecting citation rates in environmental science. Journal of Informetrics, 7(2), 265-271.

van Wesel, M., Wyatt, S., & ten Haaf, J. (2014). What a difference a colon makes: How superficial factors influence subsequent citation. Scientometrics, 98(3): 1601–1615.

Loud and proud: A psychological (and personal) look at the ‘Sin of Pride’

A number of years ago, I was asked to write an article on “The Sin of Pride” for the British Psychological Society. Before writing that article, I knew very little about the topic. To me it was the title of an record album by The Undertones that I bought in 1983 when I was 16 years old from Castle Records in Loughborough. I perhaps learned a bit more about it when I watched 1995 film Sevendirected by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt (which coincidentally just happens to be one of my all-time favourite films).

After agreeing to write the article I did a bit of research on the subject (which admittedly meant I did a quick Google search followed by a more considered in-depth search on Google Scholar). While I’m no expert on the topic I can at least have a decent pub conversation about it if anyone is prepared to listen. Just to show my complete ignorance, I wasn’t even aware that the sin of pride was the sin of all sins (although I could in a pub quiz be relied upon to name the seven deadly sins).

I was asked to write on this topic because I was seen as someone who is very proud of the work that I do (and for the record, I am). However, I have often realized that just because I am proud of things that I have done in my academic career it doesn’t necessarily mean others think in the same way. In fact, on some occasions I have been quite taken aback by others’ reactions to things that I have done for which I feel justifiably proud (but more of that later).

At a very basic level, the sin of pride is rooted in a preoccupation with the self. However, in psychological terms, pride has been defined by Dr. Michael Lewis and colleagues in the International Journal of Behavioral Development as “a pleasant, sometimes exhilarating, emotion that results from a positive self-evaluation” and has been described by Dr. Jessica Tracy and her colleagues (in the journal Emotion) as one the three ‘self-conscious’ emotions known to have recognizable expressions (shame and embarrassment being the other two). From my reading of the psychological literature, it could perhaps be argued that pride has been regarded as having a more positive than negative quality, and (according to a paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology by my PhD supervisors – Professor Paul Webley and Professor Stephen Lea) is usually associated with achievement, high self-esteem and positive self-image – all of which are fundamental to my own thinking. My reading on the topic has also led to the conclusion that pride is sometimes viewed as an ‘intellectual’ or secondary emotion. In practical (and psychological) terms, sin is either a high sense of one’s personal status or ego, or the specific mostly positive emotion that is a product of praise or independent self-reflection.

One of the most useful distinctions can be made about sin (and is rooted in my own personal experience), is what Lea and Webley distinguish as ‘proper pride’ and ‘false pride’. They claim that:

“Proper pride is pride in genuine achievements (or genuine good qualities) that are genuinely one’s own. False pride is pride in what is not an achievement, or not admirable, or does not properly belong to oneself. Proper pride is associated with the desirable property of self-esteem; false pride with vanity or conceit. Proper pride is associated with persistence, endurance and doggedness; false pride with stubbornness, obstinacy and pig-headedness.”

As I noted above, there have been times when I have been immensely proud of doing something only for friends and colleagues to be appalled. ‘Proper pride’ as Lea and Webley would argue. One notable instance was when I wrote a full-page article for The Sun on ‘internet addiction’ published in August 1997. I originally wanted to be a journalist before I became a psychologist, and my journalist friends had always said that to get a full-page ‘by line’ in the biggest selling newspaper in the UK was a real achievement. I was immensely proud – apart from the headline that a sub-editor had dubbed my piece ‘The Internuts’ – and showed the article to whoever was around.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 15.27.58Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 15.37.07

I had always passionately argued (and still do) that I want my research to be disseminated and read by as many people as possible. What was better than getting my work published in an outlet with (at the time) 10 million readers? My elation was short-lived. One close colleague and friend was very disparaging and asked how I could stoop so low as to “write for the bloody Sun?” Similar comments came from other colleagues and I have to admit that I was put off writing for the national tabloids for a number of years. (However, I am now back writing regularly for the national dailies and am strong enough to defend myself against the detractors).

In 2006, I was invited to the House of Commons by the ex-Leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan-Smith and invited to Chair his Centre For Social Justice Working Party on Gambling and write a report as part of the Conservative Party’s ‘Breakdown Britain’ initiative. Anyone who knows me will attest that my political leanings are left of centre and that I working with the Conservatives on this issue was not something I did without a lot of consideration. I came to the conclusion that gambling was indeed a political issue (rather than a party political issue) and if the Conservative Party saw this as an important issue, I felt duty bound to help given my research experience in the area. I spent a number of months working closely with Iain Duncan-Smith’s office and when the report was published I was again very proud of my achievement.

However, as soon as the report came out I received disbelieving and/or snide emails asking how I could have “worked with the Conservatives”. I have spent years trying to put the psychosocial impact of gambling on the political agenda. If I am offered further opportunities by those with political clout, I won’t think twice about taking them. I am still immensely proud of such actions despite what others may think.

Pride is ultimately a subjective experience and the two personal experiences that I outlined above will not put me off doing what I want to do. I shall continue to engage in activities where I think my work can have an impact and shall work with (and write for) those that can help me disseminate my research findings to as many people as possible.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Averill, J.R. (1991). Intellectual emotions. In: C.D. Spielberger, I.G. Sarason, Z. Kulesar & G.L. van Heck (Eds.), Stress and Emotion: Anger, Anxiety and Curiosity [Vol. 14] pp.3-16. New York: Hemisphere.

Griffiths, M.D. (1997). The internuts (internet addiction). The Sun, August 13, p.6.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Gambling addiction in the UK. In K. Gyngell (Ed.), Breakdown Britain: Ending the Costs of Social Breakdown (pp.393-426). London: Social Justice Policy Group.

Kemper, T.D. (1987). How many emotions are there? Wedding the social and autonomic components. American Journal of Sociology, 93, 263-289.

Lawler, E.J. (1992). Affective attachments to nested groups: A choice-process theory. American Sociological Review, 57, 327-339.

Lea, S.E.G. & Webley, P. (1997). Pride in economic psychology. Journal of Economic Psychology, 18, 323-340.

Lewis, M., Takai-Kawakami, K., Kawakami, K., & Sullivan, M. W. (2010). Cultural differences in emotional responses to success and failure. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 53-61

Tracy, J.L., Robins, R.W. & Schriber, R.A. (2009). Development of a FACS-verified set of basic and self-conscious emotion expressions. Emotion, 9, 554-559.

Stats entertainment (Part 2): A 2013 review of my personal blog

My last blog of 2013 was not written by me but was prepared by the stats helper. I thought a few of you might be interested in the kind of person that reads my blogs. I also wanted to wish all my readers a happy new year and thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 860,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 37 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A word to the wise: A brief look at obsessive cruciverbalism

“Sixty-four million people do it at least once a week. Nabokov wrote about it. Bill Clinton even did it in the White House” (Marc Romano, 2005).

I’m sure many of you reading this opening quote will think that it refers to sexual infidelity but it doesn’t. I was also deliberately obtuse in the title of today’s blog to throw you off the scent of what today’s blog is about. Well, to put some of you out of your misery, the topic under the microscope today is crossword puzzles. For those who don’t know, a cruciverbalist is an enthusiast of word games (especially of crosswords). According to Michael Quinion in his excellent World Wide Words website:

“[The word ‘cruciverbalist’] seems to have appeared in English about 1980 (the first reference I can find is to the Compleat Cruciverbalist of 1981 by Stan Kurzban and Mel Rosen, subtitled ‘how to solve, compose and sell crossword puzzles for fun and profit’). However, Stan Kurzban tells me that Mel Rosen had encountered the word some years earlier in the title of a directory of crossword puzzle notables that was not widely circulated. Whatever its origin, cruciverbalist has spread into the wider language as a result of their efforts to the extent that it now appears in some larger recent US dictionaries. The word is a modern mock-Latin invention, being a translation back into Latin of the English crossword (using Latin crucis, cross, as in words like cruciform, plus verbum, word, as in verbose or verbatim).There is also cruciverbalism, for the art of crossword compilation or crossword fandom generally, but that is much rarer”.

The opening quote comes from Marc Romano’s 2005 book The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime who asserted that: the crossword puzzle has arguably been our national obsession since its birth almost a century ago”. Seeing the word ‘obsessive’ was enough to make me think it was a topic worthy of consideration of writing a blog about it (especially when reading the accompanying blurb for Romano’s book):

“Saying this is a book about puzzles is to tell only half the story. It is also an explanation into what crosswords tell us about ourselves – about the world we live in, the cultures that nurture us, and the different ways we think and learn. If you’re a puzzler, Crossworld will enthrall you. If you have no idea why your spouse send so much time filling letters into little white squares, Crossworld will tell you – and with luck, save your marriage”.

On a personal note, I ought to declare a vested self-interest in that I been doing cryptic crosswords since I was taught to do them by my father in my mid-teens. In the early 1990s until the late 1990s I did (or rather attempted) The Guardian’s cryptic crossword almost every day (the birth of my daughter put a stop to daily crosswords and what little spare time I had outside of my job). On the way to a conference in Bristol in 1998, I had a race on the train with one of my departmental colleagues (Bob Rotheram) as to who could complete that day’s Guardian crossword first. I even got a letter in The Guardian (November 26, 2002) about a crossword puzzle set by my favourite crossword setter (John Galbraith Graham, better known under his crossword compiling pseudonym ‘Araucaria’). Many of the clues in the prize crossword I had just completed related to an anagram of the word ‘presbyterians’. The letter I had published said:

“I don’t know what is worse. The fact that some clues in the prize crossword related to Britney Spears and her hit singles, or the sad fact that I knew the answers to them all!”

The fact that ‘presbyterians’ is an anagram of singer ‘Britney Spears’ I found amazing (although my favourite anagram in one of Araucaria’s crosswords was ‘synthetic cream’ being an anagram of the football team ‘Manchester City’). I am also a huge fan of crossword homophones (words that are pronounced the same but are completely different in definition and meaning) and on which most forms of punning are based. This includes many of my blog titles such as my articles on body dysmorphic disorder (‘Flaw management’), biting fetishes (‘Bit sighs’), pandrogyny (‘A gender setting’), and gambling spending (‘Stake and chips’), as well as my blogs on the psychology of revulsion (‘Disgust discussed’), Exploding Head Syndrome (‘A noise that annoys’) and Jerusalem Syndrome (‘Wholly holy’). I love crosswords so much that I even have an all-time favourite clue (“Late opening” [seven letters]; Answer: AUTOPSY). Total genius!

Doing crosswords appears to be a very popular hobby. According to Dean Olsher in his 2009 book, From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords, about 50 million American people do crosswords. Olsher says that for some, crosswords are a pastime and for others it is a form of escapism (suggesting that crosswords may produce psychological feelings and motivations associated with addictive behaviours). Olsher noted that some people like the film director Alfred Hitchcock “didn’t get” crosswords. Hitchcock told film actor, director and screenwriter Francois Truffaut that:

“I don’t really approve of whodunits because they’re rather like a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. No emotion. You simply wait to found out who committed the murder”

Olsher claims Hitchcock fell prey to a common false dichotomy that thinking and feeling are an either/or proposition. Olsher claims they are inextricable, and that cerebral and emotional satisfaction are not at odds with each other. For Olsher, crosswords can be an exhilarating experience and akin to seated meditation. However, he also notes that doing crosswords (based on his own personal experience) could be an addiction:

“It is more honest, though, to think of crosswords as a habit, like smoking. It’s just something to do, every day, because it’s there. When finished with a puzzle, I don’t pump my fists in triumph or congratulate myself for my perseverance. I solve crosswords because they bring on a feeling of emptiness, and paradoxically, that feeling seems to fill a hole deep inside. It’s not a release, it’s not a flushing out, although both those terms grasp at some aspect of it. Norman Mailer said that for him, solving the crossword every day was like combing his brain. This simile is strong because it has nothing to do with usual mental fitness. It’s not about intelligence or holding onto memory. Crosswords bring about a focused state of mind, the elusive ‘flow state’. Then there are days when I decide that this is all an elaborate self-deception. That the puzzle is indeed an escape mechanism. The crossword addiction is not a metaphor but a destructive literal truth”

I was surprised to find there has been quite a lot of academic research on the benefits of doing crosswords (although very little on whether doing crosswords can be obsessive and/or addictive). However, the psychologist Dr. Howard Rachlin does mention in a number of his writings on addiction that there are many activities that could be described as ‘positive addictions’ including listening to classical music, collecting stamps, exercise, reading novels, doing crossword puzzles”. Dr. Rachlin also noted in a paper published in a 2002 issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS):

“Patterns of behavior may be maintained without extrinsic rewards. For example, on a relatively small scale, activities such as solving jigsaw or crossword puzzles are valuable in themselves. People, like me, who like to do crossword puzzles, find value in the whole act of doing the puzzle. When I sit down on a Sunday morning to do the puzzle I am not beginning a laborious act that will be rewarded only when it is completed. Yet, despite the lack of extrinsic and intrinsic reward for putting in that last particular letter, completing the puzzle is, for me, a necessary part of its value. Like listening to symphonies, the pattern is valuable only as a whole. Extrinsic rewards may initially put together the elements of these patterns but the patterns, once formed, are maintained by their intrinsic value. The cost of breaking the pattern is the loss of this value – even that of the parts already performed”.

However, Rachlin is not without his critics. In responses to the BBS paper, Dr. Stephen Kaplan and Dr. Raymond De Young claimed that Rachlin’s interpretation of intrinsic motivation as arising from a string of habits was far from convincing. More specifically, they noted that the “fascination with crossword and jigsaw puzzles seems far more likely to be an expression of the human inclination to solve problems, a tendency humans share with nonhuman primates”. Another response to the BBS paper by Dr. Thomas R. Zentall claimed that the concept of intrinsic reinforcement is needed to explain the variety of behaviour that has no extrinsic material or social reward, such as crossword puzzle solving. He argues that:

“Intrinsic reinforcers are difficult to assess. They are what [are] left once you have ruled out extrinsic reinforcers, and in the case of humans, typically we assess them by means of verbal behavior (e.g., ‘I just like doing it’). But this sort of definition can easily become circular, especially when we are talking about behavioral patterns that are themselves not clearly defined. One can hypothesize that extrinsic reinforcers become internalized, but that does not explain, it only describes”.

Doing crosswords may even be of psychological and practical benefit. For instance, Dr. Mike Murphy and Dr. Roisin Cunningham published a paper last year in the Irish Journal of Psychology claiming that: “a crossword a day improves verbal fluency”. More specifically they examined ‘semantic verbal fluency’ (SVF) an important contributor to general communication ability. In their study, 34 final year students completed a daily crossword for one month and compared this to a control group of 40 students who did not do any crosswords. Their results indicated that the crossword group experienced greater improvement in SVF than the control group. They concluded that doing simple crosswords may be a relatively straightforward way improving SVF among students who are about to enter the job market and need good transferable skills.

Dr. Graham Pluck and Dr. Helen Johnson writing in a 2011 issue of Education Science and Psychology claim that stimulating curiosity (with activities such as crosswords) can enhance learning. They drew on the work of Dr. Ludwig Lowenstein who noted that many features of human behaviour appear counter-productive on the surface but are not. For instance:

“Lowenstein discusses the interest that many people have in completing puzzles such as crosswords, or why soap operas end on cliff-hangers. According to the theory, the information gaps that people are exposed to act to motivate them to obtain the missing information, either by persevering to complete the puzzle or tuning in to watch the next episode of the soap opera”.

Another study led by Dr. Joshua Jackson and published in a 2012 issue of the journal Psychology and Aging claimed doing crosswords could change some aspects of personality among old-aged people. More specifically, they examined whether an intervention aimed to increase cognitive ability in older adults (i.e., doing crossword and Sudoku puzzles) affected the personality trait of openness to experience (i.e., being imaginative and intellectually oriented). In their study, old-aged adults completed a 4-month program in inductive reasoning training that included weekly crossword and Sudoku puzzles. They were then assessed continually over the following 30 weeks. Their findings showed that those who did crossword and Sudoku puzzles increased their openness scores compared to the control group. The authors claimed that this study is one of the very first to demonstrate that personality traits can change through non-psychopharmocological interventions.

Although there are a number of people online who have confessed as to being ‘crossword addicts’, (including the US rock singer and record producer Todd Rundgren in a June 2013 interview with Uncut magazine), I have yet to find any empirical evidence that it is negatively detrimental in people’s lives. For most, even those who describe themselves as ‘crossword obsessives’, it is a behaviour that adds to and enhances their lives.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Amende, C. (2001). The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime. New York: Berkeley.

Davis, T.M., Shepherd, B. & Zwiefelhofer, T. (2009). Reviewing for exams: Do crossword puzzles help in the success of student learning? Journal of Effective Teaching, 9, 4-10.

Jackson, J.J., Hill, P.L., Payne, B.R., Roberts, B.W., & Stine-Morrow, E.A. L. (2012). Can an old dog learn (and want to experience) new tricks? Cognitive training increases openness to experience in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 27, 286-292.

Kaplan, S. & De Young, R. (2002). Toward a better understanding of prosocial behavior: The role of evolution and directed attention Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 263-264.

Murphy, M. & Cunningham, R.K. (2102). A crossword a day improves verbal fluency: A report of an intervention study. Irish Journal of Psychology, 133, 193-198.

Olsher, D. (2009). From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Pluck, G. & Johnson, H. (2011). Stimulating curiosity to enhance learning. Education Science and Psychology, 2(19), 24-31.

Rachlin, H. (2002). Altruism and selfishness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 239-250.

Rachlin, H. (2003). Economic concepts in the behavioural study of addiction. In R.E. Vuchinich & N. Heather (Eds.), Choice, Behavioural Economics and Addiction. (pp.129-149). Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press.

Romano, M. (2005). Crossworld: One Man’s Journey into America’s Crossword Obsession. Blackpool: Broadway.

Underwood, G., Deihim, C. & Batt, V. (1994). Expert performance in solving word puzzles: From retrieval cues to crossword clues. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 531-548.

Zentall, T.R. (2002). A potentially testable mechanism to account for altruistic behavior Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 282.

No disguises on the prizes: The Ig Nobels are coming to Nottingham Trent

I apologise in advance, but today’s blog contains a not-so thinly disguised plug (well, a blatant plug actually) for a national event that is being hosted by my university on Thursday 21st March (2013). The blurb I was sent by our local organizer Phil Banyard proclaims:

“Are you dreaming about getting that Nobel prize one day? The acclaim, the achievement, the acknowledgement (and not to forget the money). Well, we don’t have the Nobel prizes coming to Nottingham Trent University but we have the next best thing – The Ig Nobels! The Division of Psychology in the School of Social Sciences is proud to present an evening with the Ig Nobels and we are calling it A Celebration of Science. The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology ( The awards are held each year at Harvard University and each award is presented by a Nobel laureate such is the esteem of this event. Over the past few years Marc Abrahams has brought an Ig Nobels tour to the UK in the spring. The tours highlights some of the key awards from the Ig Nobels’ back catalogue and provides a great opportunity to promote science to a wider audience. They last visited this university 8 years ago and we are delighted to welcome them back this March… Among the Ig Nobel Laureates will be Bob Batty (an alumni of Nottingham Trent University), Anna Wilkinson and Charles Deeming”

If that’s not enough to get you going, I would also like to add that top science journal Nature says: “The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar” (and who am I to argue?). For those of you who know nothing about the Ig Nobels, they were initiated and organised by one of my favourite journalists, Guardian columnist Marc Abrams. Abrams writes a weekly column for The Guardian called Improbable Research and he is also the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research.

Back in February 2010, I was delighted when Abrams did a whole column on my research into gambling entitled ‘Slot-machine gamblers are hard to pin down: Why are gamblers such a difficult subject for academic study?’ Secretly, I’m very proud that he dedicated a whole column to my research. (In fact, I’ve just found out while I was researching this blog, is that my research also features in his latest 2012 book This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research. Here are some of the things he wrote about my research into gambling:

It’s hard to get good payoffs from slot machines, yes. But it’s also hard to get good information from slot machine gamblers, and that made things awkward for psychologists Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, and Jonathan Parke, of Salford University. They explained how, in a monograph called Slot Machine Gamblers – Why Are They So Hard to Study? Griffiths and Parke published it a few years ago in the Journal of Gambling Issues. ‘We have both spent over 10 years playing in and researching this area,’ they wrote, ‘and we can offer some explanations on why it is so hard to gather reliable and valid data. Here are three from their long list.

  • First, gamblers become engrossed in gambling. ‘We have observed that many gamblers will often miss meals and even utilise devices (such as catheters) so that they do not have to take toilet breaks. Given these observations, there is sometimes little chance that we as researchers can persuade them to participate in research studies.’
  • Second, gamblers like their privacy. They ‘may be dishonest about the extent of their gambling activities to researchers as well as to those close to them. This obviously has implications for the reliability and validity of any data collected.’
  • Third, gamblers sometimes notice when a person is spying on them. “The most important aspect of non-participant observation research while monitoring fruit-machine players is the art of being inconspicuous. If the researcher fails to blend in, then slot-machine gamblers soon realise they are being watched and are therefore highly likely to change their behaviour.’

The gambling machines go by many names, ‘fruit machine’ and ‘one-armed bandit’ also being popular. But Griffiths and Parke don’t obsess about nomenclature. The two are giants in their chosen profession. The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction ran a paean from a researcher who said: ‘In the problem gambling field we don’t exhibit the same adulation as music fans for their idols, but we have our superstars and, for me, Mark Griffiths is one.’

Professor Griffiths is one of the world’s most published scholars on matters relating to the psychology of fruit-machine gamblers, with at least 27 published studies that mention fruit machines in their title. These range from 1994’s appreciative Beating the Fruit Machine: Systems and Ploys Both Legal And Illegal to 1998’s admonitory Fruit Machine Gambling and Criminal Behaviour: Issues for the Judiciary*. Women get special attention (Fruit Machine Addiction in Females: a Case Study), as do youths (Adolescent Gambling on Fruit Machines and several other monographs). There is the humanist perspective (Observing the Social World of Fruit-Machine Playing) as well as that of the biomedical specialist (The Psychobiology of the Near Miss in Fruit Machine Gambling). Griffiths and Parke collaborate often. Strangers to their work might wish to begin by reading the classic The Psychology of the Fruit Machine. Their fruitful publication record reminds every scholar that, even when a subject is difficult to study, persistence and determination can yield a rewarding payoff”.

All I can say, is that after re-reading this, I wonder how I can still get my head through the door. Anyway, if you’d like to go see Marc Abrams in person, here are the further details:

Event: The Ig Nobels: A celebration of Science

Time and date: 6.30 pm, Thursday 21st March

Location: The Newton Building on the City Campus of the University.

Booking details: The event is free but booking is essential.

Book at

Details of their UK events and more information about the Ig Nobels can be found on their website (


Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK


Further reading (i.e., the papers cited by Marc Abrams above)

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). The psychobiology of the near miss in fruit machine gambling. Journal of Psychology, 125, 347-357.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). Beating the fruit machine: Systems and ploys both legal and illegal. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 287-292.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Adolescent Gambling. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Observing the social world of fruit-machine playing. Sociology Review, 6(1), 17-18.

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Fruit machine addiction in females: A case study. Journal of Gambling Issues, 8. Located at:

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2002).  Slot machine gamblers – Why are they so hard to study? Journal of Gambling Issues, 6. Located at:

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics (revisited). International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.

* I’ve never actually written a paper with this title bit I think it’s an inadvertent mix of two or three papers I’ve written

Yeoman, T. & Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Adolescent machine gambling and crime (I). Journal of Adolescence,  19, 99-104.

Griffiths, M.D. & Sparrow, P. (1998). Fruit machine addiction and crime. Police Journal, 71, 327-334.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Cybercrime: Areas of concern for the judiciary. Justice of the Peace, 165, 296-298.

Stats entertainment: A review of my 2012 blogs

My last blog of 2012 was not written by me but was prepared by the stats helper. I thought a few of you might be interested in the kind of person that reads my blogs. I also wanted to wish all my readers a happy new year and thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 3 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

The funding of gambling research: Some personal observations

In the academic world, there are arguably only two units of currency – refereed publications and research grant income. In this article, I briefly outline some of my own general observations about the latter – particularly in relation to the funding of gambling research.

I am probably one of those individuals who has – for the majority of my academic career – operated on intellectual passion rather than research funding. At my previous university institutions, my perception was that there was a passive tolerance of my research rather than any active support. I survived for the first 15 years without major grant income. Based on my early experiences, my initial thoughts about the whole issue of research funding was that the informal ‘network model’ carried more weight than anything more formal, and that it was really a case of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. However, when the money for my gambling research started to flow in to my institution, there was a noticeable change in thinking about the value of my research.

However, another by-product of the significant increase in funding for gambling research that occurred in the UK is my perception that the relatively small gambling research community went from being strategically collaborative to being far more competitive with each other. Obviously, competitive tendering increases the chances of higher quality research bids but the process does not necessarily enhance collegiality and partnerships within the gambling studies field.

One of the most fundamental problems that academic researchers face in the UK is that there is a conflict between what their peers and university hierarchy view as beneficial for academic advancement, and what stakeholders outside of the university see as desirable and/or worthy. To progress academically, great emphasis is placed on the publication outlet and the source of funding. Was the work published in a high quality journal? Has the journal got a high impact factor? How often has the work been cited? Who funded the research? In short, most academics are more concerned about their own career progression than whether their research has any applied use and/or impact in the real world. One ageing professor who I used to work with was promoted to the very top of the academic career ladder but whose research papers had only a handful of times in the whole of his academic lifetime! In the real world, published academic papers have much less importance to the gambling industry, whereas research that directly impacts on policy than theory is typically preferred by governments. For such a situation to change, there is an urgent need to change the academic promotion criteria if academics are to fall in line with what the outside world (including stakeholders in the gambling field) wants. This is at least beginning to happen as individuals now have to demonstrate to their university – and funders and stakeholders more generally – how our research is making an impact in the world outside of academia.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome is the increasing conflict of interest – particularly by those who carry out research that is directly funded by the gambling industry. Almost all of the ‘big names’ in the gambling studies field have (at some point) carried out research funded by the gambling industry and this often calls into question their academic ‘independence’. This appears to be an increasing economic reality particularly in countries like the UK that live by the governmental philosophy of ‘polluter pays’. One researcher that I have worked with (now retired from day-to-day university life) refuses to carry out research if it is sponsored or funded by the gambling industry (even indirectly via our independent funding body because the money is accrued from voluntary donations by the gambling industry). Furthermore, he will not attend conferences that have gaming industry sponsorship and declines invitations to speak if they are held on gaming premises. Although laudable and highly principled, young researchers who now want to pursue a research career in the gambling studies field will almost certainly find that taking such principled actions will become a barrier to career enhancement.

Another major problem that arises from being funded (directly or indirectly) by the gambling industry is that the industry tends to have a large say in what should be researched in the first place. In my view, far too much research is done on individual risk factors such as research into biological and/or genetic predispositions, personality factors, and cognitive determinants. While this is clearly important research, it sends out the message that problem gambling is solely located within the individual rather than being the result of an interaction between the vulnerable individual, the gambling products, and the gambling environment.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham

Further reading

Adams P. J., Raeburn J., De Silva K. A question of balance: prioritizing public health responses to harmfrom gambling. Addiction 2009; 104: 688–91.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Minimising harm from gambling: What is the gambling industry’s role? Addiction, 104, 696-697.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Gambling research and the search for a sustainable funding infrastructure. Gambling Research, 21(1), 28-32.

Morrison, P. (2009). A new national framework for Australian gambling research: A discussion paper on the potential challenges and processes involved. Gambling Research, 21(1), 8-24.